The Tragic Death Of Jeff Buckley

Jeff Buckley was supposed to be recording the tracks for the follow-up to his breakout debut album, 1994's Grace. But he and fellow musician and roadie Keith Foti couldn't find the studio. They drove around Memphis, Tennessee, until twilight to no avail, so they decided to head down to the river to pass the time.

According to Rolling Stone, Foti warned Buckley as he waded out into the muddy waters of the Wolf River Harbor, a tidal water channel of the Mississippi River. "You can't swim in that water," he told his friend. "What are you doing, man?"

But Buckley wouldn't listen. He was young—his 31st birthday just six months away—and at the beginning of what promised to be a spectacular career. He must have thought himself invincible. Rather than heed his worried friend's warning, Buckley sang along to Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" on the radio as he pushed out into the water.

Foti saw a boat coming Buckley's way and shouted for him to steer clear. Buckley evaded the vessel, but then a larger one passed by. Foti turned to save the radio from the boat's wake as it splashed ashore, and when he turned back toward the river, there was no sign of the fully clothed swimmer. That was the last Keith Foti would ever see of his friend. His body was spotted five days later by someone aboard a passing riverboat.

The eerily prophetic lyrics on Buckley's debut album

As one contributor put it, the final line of Buckley's song "Dream Brother" just might be "the most terrifyingly prophetic line in rock history." The song ends with the hair-raising lines: "Your eyes to the ground and the world spinning round forever / Asleep in the sand with the ocean washing over." (You can't hear it, but I'm making a ghastly oooooh sound right now.)

But the last track of his only LP isn't the only one that foreshadows the young singer's lamentable demise. In "Eternal Life," Buckley sings, "Eternal life is now on my trail / Got my red glitter coffin, man, just need one last nail."

Maybe Jeff Buckley knew more about the end of his life (and the beginning of his next one) than we'd like to think. The lyrics of the songs he left behind sure sound like he had some insider information on the subject. But, as with so many other musicians who predicted their own deaths, we'll most likely never know if he actually spoke with angels or if it's just a coincidence that the singer died such a romantically rock 'n' roll death as drowning in the Mississippi River.